Hauraki Herald

Group to purchase own tsunami sirens

- SHARNAE HOPE

After a two-year tussle over tsunami sirens in the Coromandel, a community group is planning to buy its own.

Thames Coromandel’s sirens were disconnect­ed last year after the paging system triggered a fake tsunami warning in 2020, causing confusion and distress.

Now, communitie­s who felt that was the wrong call – based inWhitiang­a, Pauanui and Tairua – are fundraisin­g to buy and install their own sirens on council land.

Thames-Coromandel District Council ‘‘could consider’’ the request, manager of emergency management Garry Towler said.

‘‘Our council is not up to scratch with its systems, and we want our sirens back,’’ Linda Cholmondel­ey Smith told Stuff.

‘‘There are over 80 volcanoes between Tonga and New Zealand on the Kermadec Trench,’’ the Tsunami Sirens Silenced Group co-leader said. ‘‘If any of those volcanoes go off we would have less than 30 minutes to get to higher ground, so we need all the alert systems we can get.’’

The group has organised several community meetings over the past two years and a petition – which gathered more than 2000 signatures – in a bid to reconnect the sirens.

But Thames Coromandel District Council said it would cost more than $5 million for necessary upgrades to the system, which it deemed inefficien­t.

The district would have needed to install 45 sirens around the coast – 18 more than it already had.

And the sirens may only reach 44 per cent of the population, whereas the national cell alert system, Red Cross Hazards app, radio coverage and improved wi-fi would reach 80-90 per cent of people on the Coromandel during a peak period such as Christmas.

Tsunami Sirens Silenced Group coleader David Yeomans, however, believes the council relying on mobile technology ‘‘doesn’t add up’’ in a district with one of the country’s largest ageing population­s.

‘‘There are pockets of people very serious about sirens simply because of the manner of geography and lack of telephone contact,’’ Yeomans said.

The group estimates it will need to raise $40,000-$90,000 per siren, and has quotes from three different tsunami siren manufactur­ers.

The idea is to start with one in each of the three towns – Whitianga, Pauanui and Tairua – and build from there.

Thames-Coromandel District Council’s Garry Towler said the council ‘‘could consider’’ having the sirens on council land, but there would be three requiremen­ts.

The group must be legitimate, with a legal entity that couldmanag­e and maintain the siren for the long term, he said.

The siren would also need to comply with national standards and have the support of the National Emergency Management Agency.

 ?? STACY SQUIRES/STUFF ?? Thames Coromandel lost its 27 tsunami sirens after a fake tsunami alert in 2020 caused confusion and distress (file photo).
STACY SQUIRES/STUFF Thames Coromandel lost its 27 tsunami sirens after a fake tsunami alert in 2020 caused confusion and distress (file photo).

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